HC dismisses PIL pleas against Cabinet decision to demolish old Secretariat buildings

Observing that there was ‘no legal infirmity’ in Telangana State Cabinet’s decision to construct a new Secretariat building, Telangana High Court on Monday dismissed a batch of PIL petitions which challenged the decision.

A bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A. Abhishek Reddy, pronouncing the judgement in the petitions which were heard at length earlier, said the court would not intend to interfere in the Cabinet’s decision. Congress MP A. Revanth Reddy and Telangana Democratic Forum convenor P.L. Vishweshwar Rao moved the HC in 2019 by filing PIL petitions questioning Telangana Cabinet’s decision to go for a new Secretariat building.

Already, two more PIL pleas seeking to declare the State government’s proposal to demolish the existing Secretariat buildings and construct new one as illegal were filed in 2016. Taking up the hearing of the 2019 PIL pleas, the HC directed the Registry to tag the older ones as well and heard all the petitions together.

Ample space

During the hearing, counsels for the petitioners contended that there was no need for the government to go for a new Secretariat building when the existing one had all the facilities. They argued the Secretariat building was used for the united Andhra Pradesh State. After bifurcation, the AP government shifted its Secretariat to Amaravathi, resulting in ample availability of additional space for Telangana government.

Advocate-General B.S. Prasad, on the other hand, contended that the existing Secretariat building was old and required lot of repairs and renovations to make it useful for the modern-day working conditions. Instead of spending money on repairs, the government decided to go for a new Secretariat building.

While the hearing was in progress, the State government decided in June, 2019 to vacate all the blocks and offices in Secretariat building to different new premises scattered in different parts of the city. While the main Secretariat complex was shifted to nearby BRKR Bhavan, other offices of the ministers and offices were relocated to different buildings.

Clarifications sought

Meanwhile, the bench headed by the CJ sought some specific clarifications from the government about the proposed new Secretariat building. Details like the proposed complete construction area, design of the new Secretariat and estimated cost of complex were sought by the HC.

A petitioner’s counsel told the court that the government itself was not sure about the complete information of the Secretariat building it wanted to demolish and build a new one. Only after the decision to build a new Secretariat was questioned, the government constituted a committee of experts justifying the decision to demolish the old building.

The AG cited several Supreme Court verdicts which stated that policy decisions of the government cannot be questioned. After hearing the arguments consecutively for five days in March, the bench reserved the orders on March 6 and delivered the verdict on Monday.

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